Fall Wonderings

Photo Credit: Shoutout to Alex Motoc

Fourteen years ago today, I gave birth to a perfect and beautiful son, David Carl.

My third son.

My heart’s desire.

When a child is born still, our state writes no birth certificate and signs no death certificate.

It is as if the child never existed.

But no worries.

The hospital gave me a stuffed bear to carry home.

As if the gaping emptiness of my heart could be so easily filled.

You can read the whole story here.

Fall

It happened again.
October.

I hate October—
acrid leaves,
dying,
death.

My chest hurts
from breathing.

I try to forget.

But the accuracy
and tenacity
of the body
to remember
what the mind
wishes to forget
holds on.

I kept looking
at the clock,
wondering when
it would end.

I remembered
watching the clock
as my body strained
wondering when
it would end—

knowing how it would end.
Wishing it would just end.
Trying to remember,
hoping to forget.

But that’s not how it works;
I had to learn how to work
the angles of grief.

Every October
I fall into myself
like cliff diving
without water,

and I measure my worth
in treasures of memory.

—cjpjordan

Wonder

I wonder if he would have eyes the color of the sea.

I wonder if he would devour books instead of read them.

I wonder if he would prefer running outdoors or playing legos indoors.

I wonder if he would like mushrooms and tomatoes and mashed potatoes.

I wonder if he would be a music lover and a story teller.

I wonder if Evan would be different with a sibling close in age.

I wonder....everything.

All I will ever do is wonder.

I never saw the color of his eyes or read him books or cooked him a meal or sang him to sleep or heard his voice.

Even so, David lives.

He lives in my memory as an unfulfilled dream--
a set of wonderings--
until I see him again one day.

He lives in my heart
as the eternal hope
of my Eternal Hope.

—cjpjordan

Post Purity Culture

Image

Photo edited by Mariah Wilson; photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

When I was growing up in the fundamentalist evangelical church, I was taught that I was too loud, too bossy, too brass and too crass. I was chubby and wore half sizes in children’s sizes which was the plus size version for kids. My best friend was skinny, flat chested, and sporty. I was chubby, developed breasts early, and quite clumsy.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and then only Christian boys because the Bible said it was a sun to be “unequally yoked”. I couldn’t see PG rated movies, use playing cards, listen to rock music, or use “crass language” including “substitute” words like gosh, darn, golly, shoot, poop, or (Heavens to Betsy!) crap.

But it was the messages I heard about sex and my body that have been the toughest to overcome. Sex outside of marriage wasn’t even an option. Should I do such a thing, I would be forever ruined, someone else’s trash.

The list of rules for girls was quite long:

- Bodies should be covered up, even when swimming.

- Nakedness was something to cause shame.

- Virginity is what gave women value; it’s was her gift to her future husband.

- Sex is shameful, don’t do it… unless you’re married.

- Once married, women won’t want sex as often as men, but never refuse your husband.

- Always keep yourself looking good for your man.

- Put something pretty on just before your husband comes home.

- Women should submit to the authority of men for their own protection.

- Only men have strong sex drives.

- If women have sex before marriage they are damaged goods and no one will want them—they are like a crumpled rose.

Deconstruction is a process that I am still experiencing. It’s amazing how quickly the teaching and indoctrination of my youth comes back to bite my enlightened feminist modern soul. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad of my upbringing. But I am determined to continue this work.

Purity Culture

Men are visual
Or so I’ve been told
So many times
It is woven into
my DNA.

Be careful
Watch what you wear;
Watch how you walk
don’t be forward or loud
or brassy.

No one likes
A brassy woman
Women are responsible
For the lusting found
In the hearts of men.

I tell myself
I have grown out
I have moved on
From such foolish
Patriarchal nonsense.

I tell myself
I have deconstructed
Whatever that means
I have separated
The truth from the lies.

Until something happens
And all of it comes
Rushing back—
Guilt, Anger,
And Burning Shame.

At the end
Of deconstruction
There remains a giant
Pile of rubble, one
Mess of mortified me.

But I own
Every last piece
Of senseless shame
Every tiny bit
Of damning guilt

I own my story
I own my future
I alone own
The power
to rebuild my life.

—cjpjordan

Oma

Photo Credit: Thanks to CDC @cdc for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/F98Mv9O6LfI
Oma

She smelled of lilacs,
Baby Magic lotion,
and summer-misted air—
cool as the color
of her snow white hair.

Every summer
we looked for miracles
and found them everywhere—
seed to bud to flower,
violets blooming purple.

Write hope on your heart
meine liebchen—she whispered
as we worked side by side—
write hope over fear.
Get lost in wonder.

—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Fourth of July

Image

There’s this girl, you see, born on the Fourth of July. She erupted on the scene at a military base and grew to love all things military precision-like—minimalistic living and spartan saving with exacting expectations of herself—yet exploding with all the vibrant color of a rainbow. She’s an out of the box thinker—MacGyver’s met his match in her.

This girl, you see, is a firecracker, whip smart, and loud about things that matter like injustice, inequality, and freedom for all. She’s the yang to my yin, the bang for my buck, my soul sister, twin flame, and best friend. Happy Birthday, Tracy Jo! 🥰🎉🎊 💥

4th of July

It is hard to say when or where
Although why is not quite as hard
(synchronous orbits)to declare
that mysterious tidal heat
where in wonder science we meet.
Life whisks away what’s not needed,
brings the ebb and flow, completed
we move while the stars stand their guard.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Mama

Image

Mama
Mama

Leaning on my momma
used to be
as comforting
as slipping
into a good story
(and hers were the best)

like the time
she took a train
across Czechoslovakia
in 1956—-a wide-eyed
young bride boldly

braving new worlds,
baring her teeth
at armed guards
who dared dump
her unmentionables,

changing a tire
at 12,000 feet—
even the Alps
didn’t scare mama;

now little mama
leans on me,
her fragility
a reckoning of age,

and so we measure
this middle
in the luxury
of not rushing.

I see
our new season,
as one of priceless pause;
this time demands us
to rest
in the beauty
of now.

—A draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Dreamers

Image

Photo Credit: Thanks and shoutout to Dan Smedley

Lately I have been reading through the Poetry Foundation website like a novel. Sometimes I search a theme, sometimes I just read through the site recommendations.

By doing this, I have discovered some amazing poets who were previously unknown to me, and I have also discovered some interesting forms of rhyme and meter.

I experimented today with a rather unusual rhyme scheme in an eight line stanza. It’s been so refreshing to take time each day and write. I’ll tell you, it does something good for my soul.

Never stop dreaming big dreams, friends—it’s the only way you’ll ever attain them.

Dreamers

On small boats, through the long canals, they came
settling in the lowlands, digging ditches
building dykes and drains, trying hard to tame
the water running uphill. They resolved
to change their thinking; new habits evolved
and soon sleek dwellings began to appear
great in hope and greater in scope than fear
until the gleaming wheat claimed their riches.

Tell me why it is that hordes of locust
love to swarm in the warm, wet month of May.
Sudden rain like the mind keenly focused,
calls and corrals a throng of living things.
And so folks lived like paupers on shoe strings
eating barley grass and growing green beans
while listening to the constant humming
of water flowing and tymbal thrumming.
None too soon, the greedy beasts flew away.

And then more dreamers came, some in sleek boats
skimming through the canals, seeking reprieve
from the mundane and stale in hull-less oats;
some carting a lifetime of hopes and dreams
in broken barges with leaking seams.
But come they did with courageous fervor,
to be farmer, builder, and observer—
full of faith, hope, and the power to believe.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Gathering

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/vzFTmxTl0DQ/

Being completely accepted and loved is something that most humans desire. When you find that person who gathers you in, who pulls you together when the world is pulling you apart, you hold on to them.

If you haven’t found your person, my hope is that you do. And if you already know who your special person is, reach out and gather him or her to yourself.

Maybe it’s a sibling or parent, maybe it’s a friend or spouse. Whoever it is, hold on to them tightly.

Tell them how much you appreciate them.

Remind them how grateful you are for their presence in your life.

The Gathering

You gather all the pieces of me—
You gather all the dark places,
You gather all the light places,
You gather my fears and beliefs.

You weave them together and prove
our souls are made of the same cloth.
Let’s not forget this, You and me,
we find beauty in one another.

When the quiet crumbling comes
(and it always comes) we simply
move in closer to each other;
we gather our single-soul cloth

and drape it to cover us both.
We gather underneath the weight—
we gather all of our pieces—
and we hide in one another.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Gone Girl

Image

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/ka8s6fgtXwc/

I’m not sure how to preface this poem. It’s funny how writing “overtakes” me, and some things just write themselves.

In saying that, I don’t mean to oversimplify the process—as though the writer is some kind of medium just repeating what the “writer spirit” says. This poem took me the better part of a full day, and I rewrote it completely three times—crossing out words, changing rhyme scenes, rearranging the form. It was a poem birthed in struggle.

And yet, the poem chose to be born from my pen. It wasn’t a topic or prompt or something that I was told to write about.

This process of writing everyday has been cathartic for me. Since I borderline on OCD whenever I commit to doing something, there is a certain compulsion now to write everyday.

Quite frankly, I’m loving this compulsion. It feels freeing even as it commits me to a task. Crazy, huh?

With all that said, this poem is dedicated to a long time family friend who lost a daughter eight years ago this week. The heartbreak never ends.

In her own words, “No matter how many years go by, our arms never forget the babies we are no longer able to hold.”

Gone Girl

I laid my weary bones in the spot
where your heart beat for the last time;
I wondered at the peaceful sky—
how life has been such a hard, hard climb.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

My eyes cried tears dried up by grief
as I danced to the tune of woe
like a puppet poised on a string
moving in ways I didn’t know.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

The past isn’t past until we say,
but I don’t know what you need now.
You exist in all who loved you—
I feel the soul lingers on somehow.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

Yes you are with me though you’re gone—
in everything, it’s you I see.
I feel your presence in my life song,
casting a sweet spell over me.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

A Pantoum For My Pops

Image

My Pops

Happy Father’s Day to all the Pops, Dads, Daddies, Papas, Papis, Babas, Role Models, Mentors, and Step Wonders!

Today is Father’s Day, and so naturally I wanted to honor my dad. My Pops was hands-down the best dad on this planet for me.

I chose a new-to-me form called a “pantoum” (a Malay form from Indonesia) because pantoums are about memory and usually compare the present to the past in some way.

Pantoums are made of quatrains of any meter (though syllables are typically regular between stanzas), have no set rhyme scheme, and are really dependent on their repetition of whole lines.

The repetition looks like this: 
The first stanza
A
B
C
D

Second stanza
B
E
D
F

Third stanza
E
G
F
H

Fourth stanza
A
I
C
J

The pantoum carries this continuous pattern until, typically, it ends with lines A and C repeated in the last stanza. (For my pantoum this was the fourth stanza)

Here are some good examples: “Pantoum of the Great Depression” (Justice), “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark” (Dischell)

For Pops

Pops loved the simple things in life;
he loved God, his family, his wife.
Music was part of his being—
healthy, whole, and utterly free.

He loved God, his family, his wife—
walking alongside with kindness,
healthy, whole, and utterly free—
a man of solid conviction.

Walking alongside with kindness,
he had a gentle demeanor—
a man of solid conviction
and eyes with a hint of mischief.

Pops loved the simple things in life—
a lake, a dock, his fishing pole.
Music was part of his being—
my life the refrain for his song.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Tired Trumps Everything

Image

Today
Was
A
Day

What
A
Day

What
A
Week

Yesterday afternoon Lizi began complaining of intense abdominal pain; she was throwing up and had diarrhea, too. I immediately called the doctor but couldn’t get her in until 1 pm today.

By the time I got off the phone, she was much worse. I had a flashback to (mumble) years ago when I was sixteen and had appendicitis and needed an emergency appendectomy.

Right away I knew she needed to get straight to the ER.

After a four hour wait, (thank you for your blessed inefficiency Beaumont Hospitals) she was finally seen. They did bloodwork, a COVID test, and finally a CT scan.

The nurses were unkind and lacking empathy, which was both sad and frustrating. One came in and said, “OOOOH I’m so surprised. Appendicitis doesn’t usually present this way.”

Well when I had it, nurse Jessica, it presented in EXACTLY the same way, so…. maybe you should have listened when I said that to you four hours ago!

After a night in the hospital with dilaudid, zofran, and antibiotics as her only nutritional supplements, they finally got an operating room open and did surgery at 6 pm—25 hours after she arrived!

Amid this drama and phone calls to the case manager, nurse manager, etc, Evan had his last day of school—I left the hospital to drop him off and pick him up for the half day while Lizi’s dad stayed with her.

After Evan’s celebratory last day of school milkshake, we stopped at Target for a quick pickup of the Little E essentials—diapers, wipes, sippy cup, vanilla almond milk, goldfish—you know, just the essentials. Then we headed home to get the house “Little E proof”.

I’m the middle of all of this, we got the great news that Trace was being released a day early. So I snuck in a “quick” trip to Rochester to bring her home.

Loads of rejoicing here!

After getting her home and settled, Uncle Ev and I had to go get Little E from his caregiver, and then let Lizi’s dog out, feed her, and give her some love.

After we were back home for a short while when we had to go and get all the new medication prescriptions filled. We also needed to pickup a pizza for dinner.

So I loaded up “the boys” and off we went to run those errands.

When we finally got back home, a little JJ Heller I Dream of You Playlist and Little E was O—U—T.

Trace took her night meds and settled into bed for her first night home while Ev and Little E and I camped out in the living room.

Sooo exciting! (Not so much for my back, but my spirit is willing.)

So today’s poem is simply a reflection of my day.

325 miles in less than 36 hours.

#nottooshabby

Tired.
Bone weary
Ten times teary
Loud talking leery
Drained and dreary
Good deed bleary
Caregiver cheery
Tired.